Seeing Abilities in Those with Disabilities

Deb Weiner

How does the Jewish community include individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities? In all walks of life, spiritual, educational, recreational and social, how do we help create a warm and safe space for this underserved population? Keshet is an organization that provides answers to these questions for the Jewish community and beyond.

Seeing Abilities in Those with Disabilities

Snow days and snow angels

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When I reflect on childhood memories of wintertime, I think of sledding, snow angels, making winter forts, building snowmen, and snowball fights. I remember one winter in particular. My older brother--he must have been 11 years old at the time--sledding down the driveway…standing up. I mean, he was an 11-year-old boy looking for trouble--and he broke his elbow. Of course I don't ever recommend doing that, but it is on my list of vivid wintertime memories from childhood, and everyone needs a list to reminisce about.

My other two vivid wintertime memories include going sledding at midnight after a high school dance. I remember everything about that night: the dress I wore (I look back at pictures, and the dress really was quite awful), the excitement I felt to change out of my poufy pink dress into my snow clothes, and the rush of energy I felt going down the hill in full force with my friends. But the earliest wintertime memory that has stayed with me, and still gives me that warm fuzzy feeling, was when I was 9 years old. I remember spending what felt like all day and all night outside making snow angels and building winter forts with my best friend at the time. I don't know why that specific day has always stayed with me, but it felt like magic and still feels like magic when I think about it.

Through the Reis Family-Keshet Overnight Winter Program, Keshet is able to give individuals with special needs the opportunity to create fun wintertime memories. Keshet's winter camp is a fully integrated overnight program, which provides tremendous winter-break activities normally not available for children with special needs. Indoor swimming at world-famous water parks, downhill and cross-country skiing, horseback riding, ice skating, roller skating, sledding, bonfires, movies, arts and crafts, recreational sports and games are just some of the activities offered. Most of our participants talk/communicate about their experience all year and look forward to those fun, snow-filled December days.

In addition to the kids looking forward to winter camp, their parents are thrilled and overjoyed knowing that their kids will have a wonderful wintertime experience full of magical memories that will last a lifetime. As I write this, I can't help but smile and think about all of the wonderful memories I will have to share--none of them my own, but stories told to me by families--including stories of fun wintertime activities, full of magic and snow angels.

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